Are you an athlete? Athletes who are involved in strenuous activity, including running, jumping, or pivoting, are generally at a higher risk of certain injuries. Whether you’ve already had an injury or want to prevent one in the future, learning more can help. Here’s what to know about preventing and treating ACL injuries with the help of your orthopedic surgeon.
What is an ACL Injury?
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is common for certain athletes and activities. ACL injuries can be caused by a direct impact to the knee, which leads to an abnormal bend in the joint. Generally, ACL injuries don’t require contact and are usually caused by improper pivoting, landing a jump, or switching directions.
What is the ACL?
The ACL is a strong structure that is one of four ligaments that stabilize the three bones that make up the knee. The cruciate ligaments are responsible for controlling the back-and-forth motion of the knee and form an “X” inside the knee joint. When an ACL injury occurs, you may feel or hear a popping sensation as the knee gives out. Quick swelling is common, and the motion of the knee is restricted, as well as putting weight on the leg.
How to Prevent ACL Injury
Since ACL injuries are common, it’s important to know how to prevent them. Here are a few key factors to focus on.
Hamstring and Quadricep Strength
Strengthening your hamstrings and quadriceps is vital for preventing ACL injuries. That’s because both muscles play a part in bending and straightening the leg during activity. Female athletes should especially focus on this since their hamstrings are generally weaker than their quadriceps.
Having quality conditioning that improves your stability and strength is helpful in reducing your risk of injury. Some training programs may include aerobics, jump and strength training, and practicing your balance. Conditioning that strengthens the hip muscles and core is essential as well.
Improved Sporting Methods
Learning how to safely cut and land is necessary for prevention, especially for athletes involved in sports like basketball, soccer, and tennis. Improper technique during these sports is more likely to result in an ACL injury.
For some sports, making sure that your sporting gear is adjusted correctly and of good quality is an essential step. If you’re unsure about your gear, you should ask a trained professional to train you on improving your safety.
Do I Need ACL Surgery?
Unfortunately, ACL injuries still occur even with preventive measures. This means it’s also important to know what you can expect if you experience an ACL injury.
Directly after injury, make sure to use ice, compression, and elevation to help relieve pain and swelling in the knee. Then, make an appointment with Dr. Goldberg who can assess how severe your injury is and recommend the best option for you. In many cases, rest and recovery paired with other recovery treatments, can heal ACL injuries. In other cases, you may need ACL surgery.
ACL surgery is an option in cases of severe injury and includes repairing or reconstructing the ACL. Sometimes, it requires a tissue graft to effectively repair the ligament, and Dr. Goldberg can discuss your best options. This surgery is usually performed in an outpatient setting using general anesthesia and requires a very small incision and an arthroscope. This reduces your downtime, but you may need a longer recovery if a graft is needed.
ACL Surgery Recovery
After your surgery, you can expect to be monitored for a while until you’re stable. Then, you can return home with the help of a responsible friend or family member. It’s normal to experience some pain, which can be managed with pain medications and ice. Recovery from ACL surgery can take several weeks to months, depending on your surgery and how severe your injury is. You’ll wear a knee brace during this time and undergo regular physical therapy to help rebuild strength and restore your range of motion.
Dr. Goldberg can give you the best estimate of when to return to your active lifestyle, which can be at least six months. Giving yourself plenty of time to rest can help make sure your body recovers effectively and remains stable for the long term.
Schedule an Appointment
The best way to learn more about how to manage and prevent ACL injuries is by meeting with your orthopedic surgeon. If you’re in the Naples area, we invite you to contact our office by calling or filling out our online form.